Diversity: Measuring Up
6 April 2006 Josefine van Zanten
Internal accountability systems are crucial to ensuring a company's diversity. Inclusion policy must be taken to heart, not just left languishing in the mission statement, says Josefine van Zanten, culture and diversity director, EMEA, Hewlett Packard.
Hewlett Packard has been active in the area of diversity and inclusion (D&I) for more than 50 years. It is not a surprise, then, that certain global companies, who have only recently been exposed to and become aware of the importance of D&I for their business, come to HP for idea generation / consultation.
The focus of diversity policy has changed from the US approach to equal employment opportunity in the 1960s and 1970s, affirmative action in 1980s and workforce diversity in the 1990s, to a more global and broader approach in the 21st century.
The definition of diversity now includes all of the many unique differences that each one of us brings to the workplace, and diversity has become a sustainable competitive advantage that differentiates companies in the marketplaces, workplaces and communities they operate in around the world.
GLOBAL AND LOCAL SOLUTIONS
In Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), frequent benchmarking helps HP maintain a vision about what works well in the region. While HP does not pretend to have all of the answers for successfully implementing D&I, it does have years of experience in this exciting field and a solid business case for D&I, which drives its actions.
HP recognises that diversity covers a variety of areas: gender, culture, age, sexual orientation, disability and more. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as Asia, Latin America, Canada, and the US, HP especially focuses on and measures gender diversity (in the US, the focus is also on African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics). This makes sense: a better company for women is a better company for everyone.
One of the main lessons HP has learned is that establishing fixed measurements is one of the most important requirements for tracking and successfully implementing a solid D&I strategy, and surprisingly, the aspect of strategy that creates the most vivid dialogue inside and outside HP in EMEA.
Fixed measurements are often associated with equal opportunity compliance in the US, with the perception that they may require rigorous auditing exercises and increased exposure to positive discrimination. As a result, fixed measurements often meet strong opposition, which overshadows their many positive aspects.
However, in a region where women still face serious challenges to move into senior management positions, fixed measurements can facilitate real progress. Deeply engrained social and cultural norms help explain why there are not more women in management today. Measurements may bring to light a wider picture. They may demonstrate that there are glass ceilings, or a sudden drop in the number of female managers between one level of management and the next, which cannot be explained by social and cultural norms alone.
No one is intentionally withholding women from management positions or preventing women from joining corporations; yet, collectively, this is happening in certain pockets across EMEA. D&I measurements can help flag potential in-house trends in statistically relevant numbers.
This can help people-managers recognise that their daily actions need conscious rethinking so that everyone has the same opportunity for development and contribution.
AGREE A FRAMEWORK
In order to set D&I measurements, you need to have the right tools in place and agree on the right parameters to measure. A set of questions can help your company revise its approach. HP has used various measurements, implemented globally over the last few years, including: percentage of women in management; percentage of women in management, promoted; percentage of attrition of women in management; percentage of women in management, hired.
These measurements have resulted in many tangible activities which have increased awareness and promotion of D&I objectives.
For example, in order to increase the percentage of women in management, one HP business in EMEA decided to request that talented and competent women always be part of hiring shortlists. If women were absent, people managers had to justify it. Soon, managers were motivated to look beyond those they knew and seek out other talents.
The same business then requested including women in the interview process to increase the chance of women being hired. Bringing diversity into the hiring process brought positive results and more women entered the management ranks. This HP business has had the strongest track record of both hiring and promoting women into management, and retaining women in management over the last 12 months. The business itself is doing very well, and the senior vice president said that the diversity in his staff is a large contributor to this success.
None of the steps required an investment of people or money – simply changing processes, mindsets, and measuring them.
BROADENING RECRUITMENT POLICIES
A new HP D&I measurement has recently been implemented globally for the new fiscal year. This measurement is 'hiring of women' and it will help HP focus on ensuring that there is a good representation of gender diversity at all levels of the organisation.
It will drive activities in the areas of managing HP's hiring partners, prompting them to look for talented candidates beyond their current network; revisiting university selection and recruitment procedures; and, among others, rethinking the imaging and content of HP advertising to project the image of a modern, women-friendly company even further.
Measurements provide an opportunity to speak in business terms and language with the board. In a world where 'what gets measured gets done', business priorities are placed on scoreboards or dashboards, so it makes sense to translate a 'softer' business imperative into 'concrete' business language.
Where measurements do not reflect expectations, it is possible to draw attention to them and explore cause and effect. All aspects of communicating measurements should be thoroughly thought through. For example, which steps is your company prepared to take when the D&I measurements are not met? How accountable are your company's leaders really made to be? Are all people-managers, at all levels, aware of the D&I measurements? Do they understand what actions to take to have an impact on them?
Under the new leadership of Mark Hurd, D&I continues to be seen as a requirement, not an option. Diverse teams are more successful and HP sees diversity as a crucial part of its ongoing success. D&I is deeply engrained in the values of the company, and HP will work hard to make sure it keeps focused on it. Identifying and communicating D&I measurements is one sure way of keeping all people-managers involved and making HP one of the most diverse and inclusive companies in the IT sector.